Man, we’re getting so close. I mean, so close. ACC Media Day is coming up tomorrow, another sign that basketball season is nearly upon us. The Orange are pretty loaded this year, and open the season ranked No. 17 in the nation by the coaches. But how do the teams on Syracuse’s schedule stack up?
I’m glad you asked.
Look, I know you didn’t ask. Just go with it. Why do you have to be so difficult, Doug?
Syracuse plays a very solid schedule, helped tremendously by the ever-deep ACC. Non-conference play features some old foes like St. John’s, Georgetown, and UConn in addition to a high profile matchup with Wisconsin. But enough screwing around. Let’s rank this year’s competition, from worst to best.
Last season Colgate finished 13-17. There’s really not much to say here, honestly. The season opener for the Orange will be a cakewalk.
Like Colgate, Cornell struggled last season pretty mightily, slumping to a 10-18 finish last year. Another easy win for the Orange.
25. Boston College
Are you happy, Boston College? You’re so bad that you’re only just barely beating out the likes of Colgate and Cornell. The Eagles were embarrassingly bad last season, to the point where a departing senior said his favorite memory was eating on road trips. And he said this while fighting off tears. Boston College was 7-25 last year. They’re… they’re not good.
24. Holy Cross
I don’t expect Holy Cross to put up much of a fight against Syracuse, but the team from Worcester gets placed ahead of Boston College because they actually managed to make the NCAA Tournament last year despite finishing 15-20.
23. Boston University
Man, this has to be awkward for the Eagles. First Holy Cross, and now Boston University staking a claim for being the best team in Massachusetts (yeah yeah, stay out of this, UMass fans). Last season, the Terriers finished 19-15.
22. St. John’s
I know, Chris Mullin’s squad beat Syracuse last season. Well, this isn’t last season. St. John’s has…well, decent talent, at least for a team that finished 8-24 last year. But I’m expecting the Orange to wax them this year.
21. South Carolina State
Last season, South Carolina State posted a 19-15 record. They lost in the MEAC Championship, leaving them on the outside looking in for an NCAA Tournament berth. They’re not nearly as bad as you’d probably expect a school you’ve likely never heard of to be.
20. Wake Forest
Man, this is rough. I’m sorry, Danny Manning. I didn’t want to have two ACC schools near the bottom of this list. But in the words of Ty Webb, “You’re not…you’re not good.” The Deacs finished 11-20 last year. I expect them to be a bit better this year, but this is one we should still chalk up in the win column for Syracuse.
19. Georgia Tech
Last season, Georgia Tech finished 21-15. But Casey Affleck – er, sorry, Josh Pastner – is firmly on the hot seat this season.
18. Eastern Michigan
Hey look! It’s our old friend Rob Murphy! We’ll get a pretty good feel for whether or not Eastern Michigan will present a real challenge when they play Pitt to open the season. But they finished last year with an 18-15 record, and are pretty firmly in the middle of the road on Syracuse’s schedule.
They finished 15-18 last year. Fuck Georgetown.
16. North Florida
Bet you didn’t see this one coming, eh? North Florida is another one of those, “is that actually a school?” teams. But they finished 22-12 last year, and made the NCAA Tournament the year before. They’re solid, and will probably be better than you think.
15. North Carolina State
Last season the Wolfpack limped to a 16-17 record, and Cat Barber is gone. But the Wolfpack added Dennis Smith and Omer Yurtseven, and will give some teams a bit of trouble this year. Still, this is a game I’m expecting Syracuse to win.
14. South Carolina
Frank Martin’s crew finished with a record of 25-9 last year, but missed out on an NCAA Tournament berth. They’re one of those teams some people still believe should have gotten into the field over Syracuse last year. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about how the NCAA accidentally told them they were in and then did a quick about-face and said “Whoops! Just kidding!”
It’s weird to see Pitt (which finished 21-12 last year) ranked so low on this list, right? That’s what happens when Jamie Dixon bolts, to be replaced by Kevin Stallings.
12. Notre Dame
Honestly, Notre Dame as a team this year feels like one of those middle of the road “fluff” TV shows you can put on in the background and find it inoffensive, but far from memorable. The Irish finished 24-12 last year; I’d expect about the same this season.
God, I hate their bench. There, I said it. But moving on: Monmouth returns almost everyone from last year’s squad that finished 28-8, but still missed the tournament. They could easily be one of the top 10 opponents Syracuse plays this year, particularly with Justin Robinson back this season.
As long as Jaron Blossomgame is still around (and holy hell, yes, he’s still around even though it feels like he should have graduated by now), this will be a tough game. The Tigers finished 17-14 last year but that record feels a little deceptive.
Last season, the Hurricanes finished 27-8 and are just outside the preseason top 25 to start this year. But while they add some nice pieces, they lost an awful lot, so they just barely make it into the top 10 opponents for the upcoming season.
8. Virginia Tech
Believe it or not, Virginia Tech is becoming a bit of a “sexy” pick to be a surprise team in the country this year. The Hokies finished 20-15 last year and are receiving votes for the top 25, and should challenge to end the year in the top half of the ACC standings.
7. Florida State
Last season the Seminoles finished 20-14 and open the year as the first team out of the top 25. They lost a ton but bring in 5-star forward Jonathan Isaac, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes is always dangerous.
God how I hate UConn. They finished 25-11 last year and open up this season ranked No. 16. Whatever. Fuck the Huskies.
Assuming they can drag themselves away from the hookers long enough to play a little basketball, the Cardinals will once again be an incredibly difficult opponent for Jim Boeheim and the Orange. Rick Pitino always seems to have the answer for Boeheim’s teams, and the only reason they’re ranked this low is, quite frankly, based on the fact that the Orange play a bunch of good teams this year. They open the year ranked No. 14.
The Badgers play some ugly basketball. Let’s get that out of the way right now. They’re No. 10 in the nation to open the season after finishing 22-13 last year. I’m going to be honest, though: I’m anticipating a Syracuse win here.
They finished 29-8 last year. I’m not sure how their season ended, though.
2. North Carolina
This could potentially be a massive game. Well, I mean, it will be, no question. But there’s a very realistic that, when the Orange travel to Chapel Hill (who open the season ranked No. 6, just ahead of Virginia, who opens ranked No. 7) on January 16, Syracuse could be 18-0, with a little luck and if the Orange are as good as we all suspect they might be. But it’s not quite the best matchup of the year…
I mean, of course. Duke opens the season ranked No. 1 in the nation after finishing 25-11 last year. The Blue Devils are the most talented team in America, on paper. They have the odds-on favorite for National Player of the Year in Grayson Allen, as well as a loaded recruiting class. When Syracuse hosts Duke on February 22, it’s going to be epic.
Also Grayson Allen is a tool who likes to trip people and has the most punchable face in the country.
Damnit, I thought I could get through this whole thing without mentioning that. Oh well. It’s still true.